6 Ways Piano Teachers and Parents Can Encourage Piano Teens

Teens (and Tweens for that matter) these days are so into their digital devices that it can be difficult for a parent to have even a brief conversation with them about ANYTHING, let alone piano! So, why not communicate with them through their devices?

Drag these images to your desktop or save to your phone and text one of them to your teen! This will do at least 2 things – 1)make you look cool and 2)make your teen smile – or at least text you back a smiley face emojii! BONUS – it might just get your teen to practice more!

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How have you been successful with getting your teen to keep playing piano? Tell me in a comment!

10 Helps For The Non-Piano-Playing Parent

Help For Non Piano Parent

Parents who have never learned to play a musical instrument often feel lost when it comes to helping their child practice at home. This is a real concern, but doesn’t have to be! Even if they can’t carry a tune in a bucket, couldn’t play their way out of a paper bag, or don’t even know what a treble clef looks like, PARENTS have the tools necessary to help their children learn how to play music. If you’re a parent reading this right now, you might be thinking “There is no way.” Let me assure you though THERE IS A WAY. Neither of my parents nor my grandparents ever played an instrument and nobody in my family ever played the piano before I did. In fact, for many years we could not even afford a piano. In spite of this (or maybe even because of it) I not only learned how to play but have taught many other people to play as well. Here are 10 things the Non-Piano-Playing Parent can do to speed up their child’s piano learning:

1. Listen To Music Out Loud! – Connect your iPod, cell phone, tablet or mp3 player to a speaker and play music that you enjoy so that EVERYBODY in your house or car hears it. Listen to music in the car, during dinner, while cleaning the house, while getting ready for school. LISTEN TO MUSIC ALL THE TIME!!! Make sure the music you are listening to is music that your child is learning to play AND music that you would like to hear them play. Be sure to include music that highlights piano if your child is studying piano.

2.  Make Practicing Like Brushing Teeth – My friend, Derwyn Brown of Childbloom Guitar always says that parents must insist on practice just like they insist on brushing teeth. You wouldn’t let your child go a day without brushing his/her teeth would you? Of course not! Brushing teeth is an EVERY DAY thing and so is PRACTICING! Insist on Practice!

3. Learn to say the word, “AGAIN” – Listen to your child when he/she is practicing and when they finish tell them to play it AGAIN! If you hear something that doesn’t sound quite right – IT’S PROBABLY NOT RIGHT! You might not be a musician, but you are a music listener and your ears know when something is not right. Tell them to keep working on it until they fix the problem or you can simply say “AGAIN”

4. Use The Teacher’s Words– Take time to read any instructions the teacher has written in your child’s book or notebook and repeat this to your child.

5. Be Nosy – This one will come naturally to some! (I couldn’t resist). Ask your child questions about what he/she is playing. If you see things circled on the book or sheet music, ask your child what it means or why that is circled. It is OK if YOU don’t know the answer! You are trying to get THEM to think about the answer.

6. Brag Out Loud– Let your child hear you bragging about how well they are playing or how diligently they are practicing.

7. Be An On Time Taxi – Take your child to the piano lesson ON TIME. ALWAYS. This lets your child know once again that piano is important. It also gives your child the much needed time with the teacher. If you are 10 minutes late for a 30 minute lesson, your child has just missed 1/3 of the entire lesson! That translates to: slower progress, possible chaos in lesson due to rushing. It creates a frustrated student and a frustrated teacher who both just want to make you proud.

8. Be Consistent – Continuous learning is the difference between students who progress quickly and students who are stagnant or are always playing below expectation. Children who continue lessons throughout the summer when school is out do better. If your child takes off lessons in the summer and does not return to lessons until September your child is losing about 6 months of learning due to the time taken off and the skills lost during the time off.

9. Make Them Pay For Lessons– No, I do not mean that you should have your children pay the teacher for lessons. That is your job, but their job is to provide you with FREE ENTERTAINMENT. Once they have completed several days of practice – AND BEFORE THEIR NEXT LESSON – have your child give you an at home concert. My kids often made “programs” entitled “The 1 Song Concert” or “The 3 Song Concert” depending on the number of songs they knew how to play. Repeat this when visiting friends and relatives. My grandparents (non-musicians) did this EVERY time I went to visit them. It became such a routine that I knew once dinner was over I had to play for them. Eventually I learned to prepare for these impromptu performances!

10. Act Crazy – Yes, I said CRAZY! Crazy is making your kids practice when other kids are playing games. Crazy is insisting on practice even if they are crying. Crazy is not letting them get away with saying they don’t have anything to practice. Crazy is EXPECTING them to do better. Crazy is driving them to a place that has a piano if you don’t have one of your own. Crazy is signing them up for every performance opportunity your teacher offers – even if they say they don’t want to do it. Crazy is signing them up for summer music camps and scheduling your vacations around those camps. Crazy is asking hotel staff if your child can play the hotel piano during your stay there. Crazy is letting your kids know that quitting is not an option and that they must “Play To Stay” (in your house). If they want to quit, they can quit once they move out. Crazy is what works.

I know it because

I. Am. Crazy. But. My. Kids. Know. How. To. Play. The. Piano. 

The Talking Piano Bench That Teaches Sight-Reading

Piano Bench Student

Piano Bench Student

Sadly, the piano bench is an often overlooked treasure chest in the piano room. On the day my first piano was delivered when I was just a little girl, I can remember being as enamored with the piano bench as I was with the piano itself. The piano had 88 keys for me to tickle, but the bench held books full of songs that could be played on those 88 keys. Looking into that piano bench was like being in a gold mine full of sheet music! The piano bench was where I could find even more songs besides the ones that my teacher had given me to learn. I could actually look in there and discover new sounds that my fingers could produce. I have found though that my kids don’t think to look in the piano bench for music books. (This fact baffles me). I have also found in my years of working with piano students that a lot of them don’t seek out new music on their own.  (Again, this baffles me).

Thinking about my piano bench and all the musical treasure it holds gave me an idea! As piano teachers and musicians, we know the importance of being able to sight-read. We also know that the best way for a student to improve at sight-reading is to SIGHT READ. So, why not use the piano bench’s treasure chest quality to get kids excited about sight-reading?

To transform the piano bench into The Talking Piano Bench That Teaches Sight Reading, I used 3 sticky notes, the panic button, a prize, and a carefully selected piece of music for sight-reading practice according to the student’s skill level. Then the student was told to lift the bench and follow the instructions on the sticky notes.

Open Piano Bench

 

Piano Bench Panic Button

Click to see post about Panic Button

Piano Bench Sight Reader

Piano Bench Prize

The instant gratification associated with this activity made it very successful with the students. Now, they look forward to the chance to see what’s in the bench. They enjoy that and I enjoy seeing their sight-reading skills grow!

 

Getting Parents Ready for Piano Season

When your piano parents think about the upcoming piano season will they be seeing themselves dragging their kid to and from lessons and battling at home over practice OR will they be laughing out loud as they recall the fun THEY had at your

Piano Parent Social?

Hosting a Piano Parent Social can breathe new energy into your studio and it is as simple as adding a little fun to your informational meeting.

Here are 6 ingredients for a great

Piano Parent Social:

1. Sneak Peak Video – Using an app like iMovie, create a short movie trailer showing what will be happening in your studio this year.

2. Info Packets – Prepare a folder for each family that includes studio policies, studio calendar, media release forms,  and rate/payment info. Also include any other info you would like parents to know.  At the start of the social, briefly cover the main points and answer any questions.

3. Sign Up Sheet – Have a printed copy of your teaching schedule ready for parents to reserve their child’s lesson time.  As they reserve their times have them pay lesson fees.

4. Fun Group Game – A game like Taboo provides lots of interaction and fun. You can also pre-select cards with a music theme.

5. Prizes – Have prizes for each member of the winning team.

6. Pictures – Be sure to take pictures and share them with parents in a follow-up email afterwards or display in your studio

Now you and your piano parents will be ready for the upcoming piano season!

 

Never Give Up!

Yesterday we celebrated Mother’s Day. With that comes reflection on how becoming a mother has changed your life and how your kids have grown. My son is the kid playing in the video above, and I have to tell you in the beginning it was very challenging to teach him how to play the piano. Like any kid he didn’t like the idea of practicing and he got easily frustrated with all that playing the piano involves. Our lessons often ended with both of us upset and ready to throw the piano out the window, but it was too heavy for either of us to pick up! This continued for several years and then one day after about 7 years something changed.

Today we are both so glad that we did not give up. It’s pretty often these days that my husband and I wake up to the sound of live jazz piano being played in the morning. We can hardly believe that we even have to ask him to take a break from practicing sometimes to do important things like eating and sleeping. I’m talking about a teenage boy choosing piano over eating! That alone is enough for me to know that when it comes to piano lessons and frustrated kids and parents giving up cannot be an option. If you hang in there – especially on the most difficult days, the day will come when your child too will be glad you didn’t allow them or yourself to give up!

Happy Mother’s Day – everyday!

A Celebration of Octaves!

Octaves!

Do you remember the first time you realized your hands had grown enough for you to reach an octave on the piano? It happened to my daughter today, and she was so excited! She yelled for me to come look and take a picture. These are the moments that are priceless.

Parents, moments like this are the reason to encourage yourself and your child to hang in there when music learning gets tough.